The Suitcase Lady


May 31, 2016, 8:58 pm

I will not be the art teacher at one of my favorite small schools next year. After 160 continuous years, the school is being shut down and the halls of its historic building will no longer echo with the children’s happy voices.

I never drove to the school without joyful expectation. It only had under one hundred students  grades kindergarten through eighth grade, and it was not in a wealthy neighborhood. But the feelings of community, caring and love were there in abundance. No child could possibly be left behind in this nurturing environment.

Shortly after returning to school last September, we all learned of the closing. Sadness reigned as everyone knew that something very special was coming to an end. Educational excellence was trumped by economics, and no guardian angels were in sight.

Thanks to one of the best principals I have ever worked for, the school year was a huge success. She was determined to make each day matter and lived to the fullest by her staff, students and herself. She set the tone with high expectations for all of us. Her determination to make the last year the best year was contagious.

I carefully pondered which artist I would feature for the children’s last drawing project. I wanted an artist whose work radiated the joy and beauty of life. I choose Henri Matisse.

The students’ artwork will light up the halls and classrooms until the last day of school. Then, we all will scatter in different directions. But I believe we all will carry the spirit of the school wherever we go.

9 Comments for this entry

  • Noreen Strehlow on Facebook

    I don’t know how you manage to keep going! I got tired long ago :P

  • Jen Little on Facebook

    Sorry to hear that. Such talented young artists!

  • John


  • Christine

    It is always sad when old schools shut down. My childhood school housed K-2 and when they closed it I cried. It was local (though in the country), the teacher encouraged fun and creativity and it was the social hub with monthly potlucks. I hope art programs continue on. The saddest part is a lot of that is being cut too. It is almost a surprise to find a school with a thriving arts program.

  • Jane Pflughoeft

    What a wonderful tribute to an Awesome school. I agree that the spirit will live on in the people that were part of the school. Very sad to see the end!

  • eve robillard

    Love, love, love the art! Thank you for sharing this story! evie

  • Karen Little on Facebook

    I attended 5th grade in a K-5, 6-9 Lutheran school in Racine. The reason is that I had a broken leg which was in a hip cast, and the school was close to my home. I *loved* it and would like the school system to be more entrepreneurial. The problem, of course, is the public’s need for uniformity throughout its educational system so that tax money is spent wisely. At the time, I did not take umbrage at religious schools. Today, if tax payer money was funneled off to religious schools, I’d scream bloody hell. And I could go on with other examples. If our nation’s citizens started breaking away from one another to form their own cults, we are in trouble. Likewise, if we don’t do that, we are in trouble. Yin and Yang. (BTW, I mean “cult” in a good sense – people with strong collective goals.)

  • Karen Little on Facebook

    BTW, we can all create small-group schools by teaching kids things we are talented in. But when we try, we realize how exceptionally talented, clever, and resourceful trained teachers are in helping kids stay focused. Kudos, Mary, to you and people like you . . .